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Who has to pay child support?

Under New York State law, biological and adoptive parents are required to support their children financially. Whether or not the parents have lived together or were married, they are obligated to pay child support until the child turns 21 years old, unless the child becomes emancipated. An emancipated child is either married, self-supporting, or in the military.

If the parents do not live together, the parent who lives with the child is the “custodial parent”, and the parent who doesn’t live with the child is the “non-custodial parent”. The custodial parent may file a child support case against the non-custodial parent.

Can a non-parent get child support?

Anyone who has custody of a child, not just the parents, may file for a child support order against one or both of the parents. If you are receiving public assistance for the child, the Human Resources Administration may seek support against the parent(s).

What information do I need to file for child support against a father?

In order for a man to be ordered to pay child support, he must be the legal father. The father’s name on the birth certificate is not enough. You can show that someone is the legal father if:

1) you were married to the father at any time, whether before or after the child was born;

2) the father fills out an acknowledgement of paternity (click here for more information); or

3) you obtain an Order of Filiation in family court. Click here for more information.   

How do I file for child support?

If you are married and seeking a divorce, you may request child support as part of the divorce case, which is filed in the state Supreme Court (click here for more information on child support in divorce cases).

Otherwise, you may go to your local family court (click here to find your local family court).

How is child support calculated?

The court will determine how much money the non-custodial parent will pay the custodial parent to support the child using the Child Support Standards Act guidelines, which you can obtain from the court.  The NY State Child Support website lists all the factors the court may consider.  The court looks at both parents’ incomes, your child’s needs, and the custody arrangements.  Click here to get an idea of how much support the court may award for child support. 

How do I enforce a child support order?

If a non-custodial parent does not pay a court ordered child support payment, the custodial parent may file a violation petition in family court.  

Click here for DIY forms that you can use to enforce a child support order.

What if circumstances change?

If there is a change in circumstances, such as the parent paying child support changing jobs or becoming unemployed, that parent may file a petition for a modification. Click here for a DIY form.

Where can I go for more child support assistance in New York?

  • Go here to find Local Child Support Offices by county.

  • Call the LIFT hotline.

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-Scott Hvidt,  Columbia Law School

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